King County and its partners wrapped up a year of work aimed at protecting at-risk open spaces. King County and several partners safeguarded 365 acres from development in five separate December land deals.
Protection was finalized for 46 acres of open space alongside Cougar Mountain in Issaquah, 108 acres on the May Creek side of Cougar Mountain, 155 acres east of Enumclaw, five acres in Bothell and 51 acres on Vashon Island.
“Preserving this acreage showcases our innovative collaborations with local communities and land conservation partners,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. “This is exactly how our land conservation Initiative is intended to work — with creative regional partnerships that save forests, farmlands, and rivers — and ensure easy access to green space for all residents of King County.”
According to King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, the county is growing by more than 50 people per day. He said investments in parks, open spaces and farmlands are essential measures to ensure healthy and vibrant communities.
“In terms of our regional quality of life, natural environment and our economy, we need to look at investments in open space like investments in our built infrastructure. It’s all important to ensuring a high quality and healthy region,” Dembowski said.
The five December land deals brought the county’s total number of acquisition to 51 in 2018. The open space projects protect some 740 acres at a cost of about $16.3 million.
In 2018, Constantine launched the Land Conservation Initiative (LCI). It aims to preserve 65,000 acres of remaining open space lands within 30 years, before the opportunity is lost to population growth and development pressure.
The LCI is a regional collaboration between King County and multiple partners. It includes 39 cities within King County and conservation groups such as The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, The Trust for Public Land, Forterra, The Wilderness Society, and The Nature Conservancy.
Approved last summer, the legislation allows the county to borrow against future revenues from the existing Conservation Future Tax (CFT) funding stream. The county can borrow as much as $148 million over the next four years to fund its conservation efforts.
The land preservations in December were:
Through a partnership with the city of Issaquah, The Trust Public Land and King County, a preservation plan was developed to preserve the 46-acre parcel that was previously proposed for development. The Bergsma property connects parks, trails and open spaces, as well as the master-planned Talus community, a major transit center serviced by Trailhead Direct, and King County’s transit-to-trails program. As part of its agreement, King County will purchase the westernmost 12.5 acres for $355,000. The westernmost acres connect with Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park. Along with King County Parks, the city will apply for 2019 CFT funding to finalize the deal.
King County Parks, local conservative advocates, the city of Issaquah and Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust purchased 108 acres of forested and undeveloped property on the slopes of Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park in the May Creek Valley. The purchase protects the remaining forested and undeveloped parcels in the development. The land enhances wildlife habitat and provides opportunity for future public access. The $2.5 million deal was expected to close by Dec. 21.
Wayne Golf Course
With the help of King County, the city of Bothell purchased the last five acres of the former Wayne Golf Course from Forterra, completing the preservation of the entire 89-acre property. Bothell’s newest park includes a portion of the Sammamish River and Waynita Creek. About 23 acres of the park is covered with a mature forest and it serves as home to eagles, salmon and deer.
Little Lake Forest
King County partnered with Forterra to preserve 155 acres of forestland for public use, east of Enumclaw. Featuring forests, meadows, and a small lake, the land provides connection to lowland forests, and access to a network of recreational trails in the Tomanamus Forest. It also provides a habitat buffer between Enumclaw and working forest. The land was purchased and held by Forterra while King County Parks raised $1.59 million to reimburse the land conservation and stewardship organization.
Frog Holler Forest
King County preserved an additional 15 acres to expand the 60-acre Frog Holler Forest. The Vashon – Maury Island Land Trust linked local landowners with parks staff to complete the $1.35 million dollar acquisition. Frog Holler Forest is a recent addition to the island and the parks soon will release an updated backcountry trail map.